Unless you permanently live under a rock, you’ve seen that Texas hold’em has been exploding in popularity over the past few years. The allure of this exciting and action-packed game can be attributed to many things. This cliché phrase says it best: “It takes a minute to learn, but a lifetime to master.” The game is one that you can pick up in a matter of minutes, but to be good requires a life-long quest.
On top of the excitement factor and the never-ending ability to get better, the game can also be extremely lucrative. Anyone can make a ton of money from playing Texas hold’em. Whether you’re playing at home with friends and family for pennies and nickels or you’re playing in Vegas at the World Series of Poker for millions, the amount of money you can win is endless.
You’re in for a real treat with this guide. We’re going to start by walking you through the basics of the game. We’ll talk about why the game is important, how to play the game and the differences between the different ways you can play Texas hold’em.
After that is where we get into the fun stuff. We’ve created a section fully dedicated Texas hold’em strategy that will cover everything from beginner strategies like starting hand requirements to advanced strategies like floating, three and four betting and more. Our team of professionals will be revealing strategic content that you normally should have to pay for completely free. You can consider this our donation back to the poker community.
If you’re ready to get learning, let’s dive into the world of Texas hold’em poker!
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It’s important that we let you know that we do not allow any online poker sites to pay for better reviews, ratings or recommendations. We feel that allowing that would be a disservice to you, our reader. For that reason, you can trust that the sites we recommended above (and anywhere else on our site) are actually the best options available. We refuse to waiver on this. All we care about is that you have the best online poker experience that you possibly can.
In This Guide…
This comprehensive guide was put together by a team of past and present professional poker players. These players have extensive experience in all facets of the game as well as professional experience with instructing poker players of all levels. The beginning sections of the guide will focus on information important to those brand new to the game. We’ll walk you through a general overview of the game, how to play the game and then the different variations of the game that you need to be aware of.
After that, we’ll dive into our strategy section which is the real treat of this guide. The section has invaluable information for players of all levels. Unlike some resources online that only give you generic poker strategy, we’re going to get into the nitty-gritty details and specifics about the different formats of hold’em and how to beat them.
As a game of skill, poker is not in the same gambling category as games like blackjack or craps. In those games, you compete against the house and will always be at a statistical disadvantage. With Texas hold’em, though, you’re competing against other players in a game of skill where the best player will reign victorious in the long run.
If you’re brand new to the game, we highly recommend that you work through this guide from start to finish. If you’re not, though, we’ve left some convenient links to jump to the specific sections that you’re most interested in. Take your time and try to absorb as much of this information as you possibly can. Remember, the game can be learned quickly, but it takes a lifetime to master it!
The Importance of Texas Hold’em
We touched in the intro about the growing and exploding popularity of Texas hold’em poker. What we’d like to do now is go more in-depth into some of the reasons why the game is so popular and, more importantly, why you should play Texas hold’em. Understanding why you should learn something is crucial to keeping the motivation to push through the mountain of knowledge we have for you here.
Why is Texas Hold’em So Popular?
It really is no secret that Texas hold’em is one of the most popular games in the world. People of all ages from the old to the young are picking up the game. The game is shown on TV networks worldwide, has dedicated magazines and publications, monster forums and websites dedicated to it and is played at the majority of casinos in the world.
So why is this game so darn popular? As we’ve already mentioned, it’s a game that doesn’t take long to learn. The rules are fairly simple and straightforward, and you can have a fairly firm grasp on them in no time. This means that you’re not spending a lot of time preparing before you can jump into the action and give it a shot. For people that love action and excitement, this is a huge draw.
The game also allows anyone to ascend to the highest ranks. Imagine if you decided today that you wanted to play professional football. Could you realistically see yourself in the Super Bowl next year? Unless you’re some freak athlete, there is probably about a 0% chance of that happening. Even if you were a freak athlete, you’d still have a million different hoops to jump through, and that percentage wouldn’t be much higher.
With poker, though, anyone can play at the highest level as long as they have the cash to cover the buy-in. The Texas hold’em Super Bowl is the World Series of Poker Main Event played in Las Vegas every year. Do you have to go to tryouts, qualify and make the team to play? Nope! As long as you have the $10,000 buy-in to play, you can take a seat and play with the best.
Does this mean you’re going to win? The answer to this question is another reason that Texas hold’em is so popular. If you went out and raced against the best sprinters in the world 100 times, you would lose 100 out of those 100 races. You would win zero times. But, if you play poker against the best in the world 100 times (and you aren’t that great), you’d probably end up winning a few of those times. Sure, they would beat you most of the times, but poker includes a small element of luck to go with the skill side.
This means that, on any given day, an amateur could beat the pros. In the long run, the better players are going to prevail, but in the short term, anything is possible. This makes it exciting for amateurs to take their shot against the pros. This coupled with the other reasons we’ve mentioned are just a few reasons why Texas hold’em has been exploding in popularity and shows no signs of lightening up anytime soon.
Why Play Texas Hold’em
Some of the reasons you should play Texas hold’em might already be clear to you, but we want to mention several of them in case you are considering getting in the game and are still on the fence. This is not a complete list of the reasons to start playing, but they are some of the main ones that most people would list as the reason they got started or that they continue to play.
It’s not rare to be sitting at the table with billionaire businessmen, famous Hollywood actors, comedians, athletes and more. The greatest part about poker is that, at the table, everyone is an equal. No one gets special treatment once the cards hit the felt which makes for a great environment to let your guard down and make some new friends.
The Brain Workout
Texas hold’em will test your mind, wit and resolve as you work to conquer the game and defeat your opponents. It’s important that your mind is always pushed to the limits and worked out just like any other muscle in your body. You can rest assured that this game will always push you to those limits. If it ever starts to get easy, you can always move up in stakes to play at the higher limits. There can only be one “best player in the world, ” and if that’s not you, you’ve still got room to grow.
How to Play Texas Hold’em
The first step to being the best Texas hold’em player in the world is learning how to play the game. The rules are fairly simple and straightforward, so they shouldn’t take you long to learn. If you’re brand new to the game or looking to brush up on the rules, we’ve got you covered.
Below, you’ll find a link to our dedicated guide on the rules of Texas hold’em and how the game is played. When you finish that guide, you’ll be ready to try your hand at the game. Should you, though? Well, we recommend not getting ahead of yourself. After you get through learning the rules, come back here and learn everything else you need to know to get started on your journey to the top.
Cash Games vs. Tournaments
All Texas hold’em games are not created equal. In fact, every variation of the game is light years different from the others. What we’d like to do is start by introducing you to these different variations. Texas hold’em games can be divided into three main types: cash games, tournaments and sit and go’s. Within each of these subsections, there are more variations that we will go over as well.
Remember, while these different formats are in fact different, they are still just variations of classic Texas hold’em. The rule sets are going to be the same. The same hands that beat other hands will not change. The order in which you play along with the flow of the game will be the same. The only things that will be different will be the format of how the game is set up. Let’s take a look at each, and it will make much more sense to you if you’re currently confused.
A cash game is a poker format where you can play for as many or as few hands as you want. A cash game has no definitive end, and the blinds and antes never go up. Players will come and go from the game as they please and are never required to play a certain number of hands.
When you buy-in to a cash game, you are given chips that represent the exact amount of money you used to buy-in with. If you buy-in with $200, then you are given $200 in chips. If you take those chips back to the cashier, you can get $200 in cash back. Cash game chips are effectively the same as cash. They hold a cash value.
You’re free to sit down and play one hand in a cash game and leave if you want or you can sit down and play for 20 hours straight. Every other player at the table has the exact same right as well. Cash games come in varying stake/blind levels, but they will always stay at the stake/blind level that is posted. They will never increase as they do in some of the other formats we will mention.
For example, if you were to sit down in a $1/$2 cash game, the small blind would be $1, and the big blind would be $2. At no point will these ever increase. During hand 1, the blinds will be $1/$2…at hand 8,479, the blinds will be $1/$2.
As we mentioned, you are free to leave a cash game at any point in time that you want to. When you leave, the value of the chips you have in front of you is the amount of money you will get back from the cashier. If you started with $200 in chips and get up when you have $300 in front of you, you’ll get $300 in cash back. If you start with $200 in chips and cash out when you have $150 in front of you, you’ll get $150 in cash back.
Also, if you lose all of your chips in a cash game, you are always free to buy back in. You are not eliminated from the cash game. You’re free to purchase more chips and get right back into the action.
Tournaments are much different than cash games. A Texas hold’em tournament is a poker competition where players compete until one player has all of the chips in play. The blinds and antes continue to rise on a fixed schedule until the tournament is completed.
Players pay an entry fee for a set number of chips instead of buying chips that match the amount of money they put in. This means that technically tournament chips have no cash value; they are only tournament units. Players are not permitted to ever cash out of a poker tournament, but must play until they are out of chips or until they have all of the chips in play. Players are awarded prize money based on what position they finish in the tournament.
Let’s break this down a bit more to make it clearer. Let’s say that 100 people sign up for a $100 Texas hold’em poker tournament. Each player is given 10,000 in chips. Obviously, these chips do not equal $10,000. They are just units for the players to work with to see what place they finish in.
The tournament will start, and the blinds will rise to help force the action along. When a player is out of chips, they are out of the tournament (with exceptions we will cover below). The play continues until 1 of the 100 players has all of the chips in play.
So, how does the money work? Well, 100 players each put in $100, so the total prize pool is $10,000. This prize pool is usually distributed based on what position the players finish in. While this can vary, the industry standard is for the top 10-15% of players to receive money with the amount increasing the higher you finish. The remaining players receive nothing.
The payouts for this tournament might pay the top 15 players with first getting much more than 15th. The level at which the payouts increase will be determined by the site or poker room putting on the tournament.
Different Types of Tournaments
Just as all Texas hold’em games are not created equal, all tournament formats are also not created equal. There are a multitude of different popular formats that you will encounter at some point along your poker journey. Are you required to know how to play and beat all of these to be a successful Texas hold’em player? Of course not! You can make your whole career out of only playing one of these formats and do just fine.
Rebuy and Re-entry Tournaments
Satellite tournaments are a great way to get involved in bigger tournaments without having to put up the full buy-in amount. If you’d like to learn more about satellite tournaments and how to dominate them, click the button below now.
Bounty tournaments can be a lot of fun, but can change a lot when it comes to proper strategy. We break everything down for you for both styles in our special bounty tournament guide below.
Sit and Go’s, Shootouts, Steps and Heads Up Tournaments
The most popular type of SNG’s are single-table tournaments. These are 9 or 10 handed tournaments that usually pay the top 3 players. It’s not rare to see multi-table SNG’s as well with any amount of players (usually in multiples of 9 so they have full tables). You may also see tournaments where SNG’s are played in a bracket-style with the winner of each table moving on to play the winners of the other tables. These are known as shootouts. A variation on this style is the step tournament that we will cover more in depth in the dedicated guide.
Single table SNG’s can also be run with two players only where the players battle it out against only the other player. These are known as heads-up SNG’s or heads-up tournaments. These can be one table only or can also be done in a shootout format, although they aren’t usually referred as shootouts in those situations.
To learn more about all of these types of tournaments that fit in the same format family, click the button below.
For example, if a poker room says that a $100 buy-in tournament has a $10,000 guarantee, this means that no matter how many players show up to play they will be giving out $10k in prize money. If 90 players show up, that means the poker room only collected $9k, but they are still going to pay out the prize pool as $10k. The poker room will have to put up the extra $1k out of their own pockets. If 200 people show up for this tournament, the poker room will collect $20k from players and the prize pool will then be $20k.
The poker room does not get to keep any extra money just because they met and exceeded the guarantee. When the poker room falls short on a guarantee, it is called having an overlay. As you can guess, an overlay is extremely good for players and means they’ll be playing for more money than they really should be.
Pot Limit vs. No Limit vs. Limit
If you aren’t already overwhelmed with all of the different options with Texas hold’em yet, we’ve got more for you! Within each of the different formats we listed above, you have three more variations of the game that can be played. These variations have to do with the style of betting and the amount that you are allowed to bet on each street.
No Limit Texas hold’em
This is by and far the most popular form of Texas hold’em there is. This is the style that is played during the WSOP Main Event and most likely the style you’re accustomed to playing. For that reason, most of the rest of this guide and the strategy sections deal with no limit. In no limit Texas hold’em, you can bet as much or as little of your chip stack as you want at any point in the hand. There are no limitations. Your entire stack is always in play.
This makes for a much wilder and more exciting format of poker. The pots are usually bigger, the action is faster and the chance to make a fortune grows.
Pot Limit Texas hold’em
This version of Texas hold’em is “no limit lite.” In this format of the game, you are only allowed to bet as much as is in the pot. If there is $100 in the pot, then the maximum you can bet is $100. If there is $800 in the pot, then the maximum that you can bet is $800. You are limited in your bet size by the pot, hence, why it is called pot limit.
Limit Texas hold’em
Sometimes referred to as an old man’s game, limit Texas hold’em is a structured betting game where you can only bet or raise a fixed amount on each street. While this may sound like a buzz-kill and somewhere you can’t make a lot of money, that’s definitely not the case. Limit games will sometimes play very big with the chosen limits being in the thousands per bet.
Even though limit Texas hold’em is technically similar to no limit Texas hold’em, the strategic implications are so different that some regard it as a totally different game. These people are somewhat right and somewhat wrong. The strategic theory is similar, but it just is altered due to the limits in betting sizes. You have only one bet size to react to instead of interpreting a lot of different bet sizes as you do in pot limit or no limit.
Texas Hold’em Strategy
Welcome to the fun part of this guide! This is the section that we are the most proud of and the section that will certainly bring you the most value in helping to grow the success of your Texas hold’em career. Our team of past and present poker professionals have spent countless hours putting together a fully dedicated Texas hold’em training and strategy section.
You’ll find tips, tricks and strategies that you normally would have to pay for completely free. If you’re ready to elevate your game to the next level, click the link below and enter our fully dedicated and completely free strategy portal. We know you won’t be disappointed.
Luck vs. Skill
It’s crazy for us to think about how widely this is debated and how often people are misinformed about the topic. Is there luck involved in poker? Yes. Is it predominantly luck? Definitely not. Poker is a game that can be beat long term. There is a reason the same people always seem to find their way to the top of tournaments. There’s a reason that certain people are able to play cash games for a living for many years.
Are these people just the luckiest people on the planet? No. These people understand the strategy of the game and how to exploit their opponents properly. They know how to get maximum value when they have the best hand and lose the minimum when they have the worst hand.
Since we know that many people are stubborn, we’ve put together a dedicated guide to walk you through this debate. This guide is perfect for those who aren’t sure whether to believe that the game can be beaten long term. This guide is also perfect for those that “have already seen the light” and are looking for an eloquent way to share this information with their friends, families and significant others.
Click below, and you’ll see that we’ve finally settled this debate once and for all.
Online Texas Hold’em vs. Live Texas Hold’em
One of the biggest choices you’ll have to make once you start playing Texas hold’em is whether or not you’re going to play live in a brick and mortar poker room or at home on the Internet. In the older days, you were limited to only playing in a brick and mortar poker room or at a home game at a friend’s or someone you knew.
While this could work, it ended up being fairly inconvenient for a lot of folks. This only worked if you lived close to a poker room or you happened to know someone that was running a game. Even then, you had to travel to the game, and security was a real concern if it was a home game. In the late 1990s, though, Internet poker blasted onto the scene giving players a convenient option to get their poker fix on.
In the sections below, we’ll dive into the differences between live Texas hold’em and online Texas hold’em. We’ll discuss the pros and cons of each to help you make a much more informed decision about where you might want to play. This will be great if you’re brand new to the game or maybe if you’re someone that has played live for many years and is considering the switch to online play.
This is the most classic form of Texas hold’em. If you watch any old movie with gambling in it, you’ll most likely see a table of cowboys in the background playing poker. While they probably weren’t playing Texas hold’em, they were playing live poker. Live poker is any time that you play the game in a brick and mortar setting. This could be going to the local card room to play, going to the poker room at a casino or even playing in a home game at your friend’s house.
Live poker is a favorite of a lot of people because they can see their opponent. A lot of times they feel like they can get a much better read on their opponent based on their facial expressions, body language and the way they speak. This is definitely one of the biggest pros that live poker has over online. The second pro of live poker is that it’s much more social than online poker. You’re able to chat face to face with other players, the dealers and the floor staff. For a lot of people that use poker as a recreational hobby, it’s a great reason to get out of the house and get some human interaction.
On the flip side, there are some downsides to playing in the brick and mortar setting. First, convenience is much lower than it is with online poker. You’re forced to put your pants on, get a babysitter for the kids or your significant other, drive to the game location and then finally start playing. This takes time and costs money. This is time you could be already playing and money that you could be saving.
You’re also only able to play one game at a time. A lot of poker players who like action or play to make money like to play more than one game at once. This is possible online with the click of a button, but in a live setting, you are limited by the fact that you can’t physically be in two places at once. For some, though, they’re content with playing one game at a time. Yes, live poker is slower than online poker, but for a lot of recreational players looking for social interaction or to pass the time, that’s fine.
If you do decide to play Texas hold’em in a live setting, you need to make sure that you follow a lot of general etiquette rules when you get to the poker room. Following these will ensure that you don’t make any costly mistakes and that you have a much more enjoyable time.
It’s funny that we still refer to online poker as a new innovation when, in fact, it has been around for over 20 years now. In its infancy days, it had issues that were legitimate concerns for people interested in trying it out. In the past 20+ years, though, the kinks have been worked out, and online poker is now a legitimate and viable way for you to play poker. Some would argue that it’s more legitimate, safer and better structured and organized than any live poker room in the world.
Let’s talk about the pros of online poker. First, it’s much more convenient. You don’t have to leave your house, and it takes just a few seconds to get logged on. All of your transactions can be done digitally including cashing out your money. This saves you an enormous amount of time, hassle and most of all, money. It officially takes $0 in gas money to get to an online poker room.
Secondly, it’s much more conducive to improving your game quicker. You’re able to see hands faster, play more games if you want, study your hand histories easier, use software to help you get better and most importantly, you can start playing at much lower stakes than you can playing live. If you go to play Texas hold’em in a local poker room, the smallest game that you’ll most likely see will be $1/$2 no limit hold’em. The standard buy-in for this game is $200.
When you play online, though, they will have tables as low as $.01/$.02 where the standard buy-in is $2. This means that you can start playing for real money without risking much in the beginning. You can then slowly and strategically work your way up the stakes as you improve and are ready. This could be reason enough to play online if you are new to the game and looking to improve at a gradual and safe pace.
The third major pro of online Texas hold’em is that there are MUCH more players. Because you’re able to play with players from around the world, you’re always going to be able to find a game. If you want to play on a random Tuesday morning, you might not be able to get a game at your local card room. Online though, there are always people ready to play. They might not be from the same country as you, but their money cashes out and spends just the same!
There are some limited drawbacks to online poker that are more preferential thoughts. First, some people don’t like the fact that you can’t see your opponents face to face. They like to stare down the table when they’re making a tough decision (or sometimes any decision…insert eye roll), and it’s just not the same when you’re starting at a small avatar or a screen name. Secondly, some people like to use poker as a social outlet. While you can still chat with people online, it’s definitely not the same as talking to someone face to face. As a culture that stays buried in our phones now anyway, this may not be a big deal.
Overall, we are big proponents of online poker versus live poker especially for Texas hold’em. It’s convenient for the casual player and strategic for the serious player looking to improve their game. As an industry that’s now been around for over 20 years, it has really turned into an amazing product and industry that you definitely need to check out!